Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/2/12

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - The New York Giants are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Dallas Cowboys go into the offseason wondering what went wrong after a late-season collapse.

Eli Manning threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, Victor Cruz shredded the Dallas defense for 178 yards and the Giants captured the NFC East with a 31-14 win in the NFL's regular season finale Sunday night.

Manning connected on 24-of-33 throws while Cruz had six catches, including a 74-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Manning finished the regular season with a franchise-record 4,933 passing yards.

The Giants (9-7) earned the No. 4 seed in the conference and will host Atlanta next Sunday at 1 p.m. (et).

Sunday's win came three weeks after the Giants rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to shock the Cowboys, 37-34.

In this winner-take-all game at Met Life Stadium, Tom Coughlin's squad raced out to a 21-point lead in the first half and saw it trimmed to a touchdown in the fourth quarter before pulling away.

"There were some times tonight where it was a little nerve-wracking there," Coughlin said. "We straightened it around and finished the game the way we wanted to finish it. We finished the regular season the way we wanted to finish it and created an opportunity for ourselves to be in the playoffs."

Tony Romo, despite an injured right hand, connected on 29-of-37 passes for 289 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, but the Cowboys (8-8) lost for the fourth time in five games to miss out on the postseason.

Dallas fell to 9-14 in regular-season games in December and January in which Romo has started.

"There were a lot of good things that happened to our football team this year, there were some disappointing things that happened as well," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We can look back and we have to correct the things that weren't good enough. We didn't play consistently good enough football throughout the year."

Romo finally got the Cowboys on the scoreboard with 6:54 left in the third quarter when he found Laurent Robinson down the right sideline for a 34-yard touchdown.

But Romo threw the ball right into the hands of safety Antrel Rolle on Dallas' next possession.

Despite the turnover, the Giants failed on a 4th-and-1 from the Dallas 35 when Brandon Jacobs was stuffed on a running play.

The Giants turned the tables on Romo early in the fourth. Instead of going for a field goal on 4th-and-1 at the New York 10, the Cowboys went to a quick count, but Romo was stopped on a sneak although he argued for a better spot.

Dallas' defense held to a three-and-out, and an unnecessary roughness penalty moved the ball to the New York 26 after the punt. Three plays later, Romo hit Robinson on a slant pattern over the middle, trimming the deficit to 21-14 with 10:15 remaining.

Manning, though, played escape artist on a critical 3rd-and-7 play. After spinning in the pocket to avoid the rush, Manning threw the ball in the middle of the field to Cruz, who made a leaping grab for a 44-yard gain to the Dallas 28. Two plays later, Cruz caught a 20-yard pass, leading to a Lawrence Tynes 28-yard field goal inside six minutes left.

Following a Dallas punt, Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks for 36 yards on 3rd-and-5. On the next play, the two hooked up for a four-yard score with Nicks making the grab in the left rear corner of the end zone.

Romo was sacked by Justin Tuck and fumbled the ball away, leading New York to chew the final 1:41 off the clock.

Cruz, who got loose for a 99-yard score the previous week against the Jets, had another long TD play in the opening quarter, racing down the sideline for a 7-0 lead with 4:57 left in the period.

Ahmad Bradshaw broke a tackle in the backfield before scoring on a five-yard run early in the second quarter.

Tynes missed a 40-yard field goal later in the quarter, but the Cowboys continued to falter. On 3rd-and-6 from the New York 39, Romo scrambled before finding Dez Bryant for a 22-yard gain. But the Cowboys QB was over the line of scrimmage, and Dallas was forced to punt.

Manning then marched the Giants 80 yards in eight plays, capped by his 10-yard TD pass to Bradshaw, who stretched the ball over the goal line before it fell out of his grip. The score came with 69 seconds left in the half.

Game Notes

The Cowboys have now lost seven consecutive games on Sunday Night Football, which includes an 0-4 mark this season...Romo surpassed the 4,000-yard passing mark in a season for the third time in his career...Robinson finished with a team-best 11 touchdowns on the season. He had just four scoring receptions over his first four years in the NFL...Manning set a new NFL single-year record with his 15th touchdown pass in the fourth quarter...Cruz finished the regular season with 1,536 receiving yards, third-best in the NFL in 2011 and the most in team history...Defensive end Osi Umenyiora returned from a four- game absence due to an ankle sprain and had two of the Giants' six sacks of Romo...The Giants have won five of their last six meetings with Dallas.

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